How To Wheelie a Dirt Bike Like a Pro

Being able to do wheelies on a dirt bike isn’t just fun and badass, it can get you over and through some difficult environments. If you’re trail riding, you’ll be able to raise the front wheel up to get over obstacles, cross shallow water and challenge jagged terrain.

As a guy who’s been doing wheelies using a 400cc motorcycle for years, I can tell you that doing a wheelie isn’t at all very hard. It’s just a matter of balance. …and a bit of patience.

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Quite blurred, but you can still see the perfect wheelie technique.

How to Wheelie a Dirt Bike — 7 Essential Steps

If you’re in a rush to head out to do wheelies, here’s the essential wheelie recipe using your bike’s clutch (details on electric dirt bikes further below). Keep reading after for a detailed explanation of each step:

  1. Get into an active body position.
  2. Grip the handlebars firmly.
  3. Get into a gear with the most torque (skip when using a clutchless dirt bike). 
  4. Put all of your weight onto the rear wheel.
  5. Disengage the clutch (skip when using a clutchless dirt bike).
  6. Quickly open the throttle then engage the clutch. 
  7. Balance with brakes and throttle. 

That is the basics on how to wheelie a dirt bike. Read on for a good discussion of each step.

What Is a Wheelie?

A wheelie is a motorcycle stunt where you lift the front wheel of your bike off the ground by applying enough torque to the rear wheel. As mentioned above, wheelies aren’t just fun, they can be very useful for offroad riding when faced with smaller obstacles, like tree branches, or for evading cops on Baltimore streets.

Baltimore wheelie dirt bikes (Source: YouTube)

For example, you’ll often see enduro bikes in the Baja 1000 lifting their front wheels to sail over rough patches of ground. These monster wheelie machines have gobs of power so can wheelie at high speeds.

Interesting wheelie fact: The first wheelie was done in 1890 by trick bicyclist Daniel J. Canary, shortly after modern bicycles became popular. Wheelies have appeared in pop culture in 1943 where U.S Army military cavalry are shot performing wheelies. Daredevil Evel Knievel performed motorbike stunts including wheelies in his shows. Doug Domokos has also accomplished such feats as a 145-mi wheelie.

Decide How to Wheelie a Dirt Bike: Clutch Wheelie vs. Power Wheelie

There are about two main types of wheelies. Both do the same thing but the methods to achieve them differ. These wheelie types include:

The Clutch Wheelie

This type of wheelie makes use of both the clutch and throttle to raise the front wheel up. The reason for using the clutch is that most smaller, lower powered bikes can’t reach a high RPM fast enough to raise the front wheel on opening the throttle. Disengaging the clutch allows bikes to reach that RPM without allowing the engine to prematurely deliver power to the rear wheel.

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Here a Harley does a crazy clutch wheelie.

The Power Wheelie

The name may make it sound complicated, but the power wheelie is the simplest form of wheelie you can do on a motorcycle. I guess the only downside with this type of wheelie is that you can’t use it on just any dirt bike. The power wheelie makes use of just a quick blip of the throttle to raise the front wheel. That means you would need a big dirt bike that can quickly reach high RPM the moment you pop the throttle.

Another dirt bike but the principles are the same… how to do a power wheelie does not change
Another dirt bike but the principles are the same… how to do a power wheelie does not change.

The Step-by-Step Guide on How to Wheelie a Dirt Bike

Now that you know the basics of how to wheelie on a dirt bike, let’s get into the more hairy details of doing this stunt from a standstill. Doing a wheelie may look as simple popping the throttle hard and fast, then balancing, but there are several steps that you have to follow in the right order so you don’t bail:

Step 1: Get Into an Active Body Position

A precise body position is just as valuable as the technique itself. Wheelie body position is different for every wheelie enthusiast but you have to master the basic form before you do a wheelie — whether that be sitting or standing.

One of the best starting body positions for performing a dirt bike wheelie is to keep your chest always in line with the slope on your dirt bike’s gas tank. Also make sure to keep your elbows slightly bent so you don’t accidentally pull on the throttle when your front wheel finally goes up. This puts you in a solid position to use your core muscles to maintain stability on the bike whether you’re doing a seated wheelie or a standing wheelie. Using your legs to hug the tank also helps solidify your control over the bike.

The key is finding your point of balance. If you lean too far forward, it’ll be especially difficult to raise the front wheel and may be detrimental because it provides a high center of gravity. Too far back and you’ll quickly find yourself seated… On the road… with a bleeding butt.

A seated body position while performing a dirt bike wheelie is the first and most basic thing you can do while learning dirt bike wheelies. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easier than a standing body position. The thing about sit down wheelies is that it makes it possible to raise the front wheel higher (great for showing off) than that of a standing wheelie. This makes use of mostly your legs to grip the tank along with your arms to keep your body in an upright position.

Standing wheelies are more practical since it allows you to keep your foot safely and securely planted on the rear brake. It’s also safer since you can just put your feet down in case you lose control of the bike. This position makes use of just your arms to hold on to the handlebars and throttle and your right foot to use the rear brake to balance the bike. It feels like riding a segway.

Seated wheelie body position (see the elbows? Keep it bent for total control).
Seated wheelie body position (see the elbows? Keep it bent for total control).
Standing wheelie body position (the front wheel is raised a bit lower than that of a seated wheelie). Also makes it easier to control.
Standing wheelie body position (the front wheel is raised a bit lower than that of a seated wheelie). Also makes it easier to control.

Remember:

  • Chest perpendicular to the gas tank
  • Elbows always bent
  • Hug the tank with your legs
  • Right hand on the throttle
  • Right foot on the rear brake pedal
  • Maintain your center of gravity

Step 2: Grip the Handlebars Firmly

Always keep your hands strongly wrapped around those handlebar grips, and never let go. The reason behind gripping the handlebars firmly is so that you won’t accidentally let go and bail out when the bike suddenly jerks up during a wheelie. This will also give you great control over the throttle when you finally go front wheel up.

This may seem like the easiest step but it’s also the most important one. In order to start a wheelie, you need to get into a comfortable position where you can grip the handlebars with full hand strength. For me, it’d be to lean slightly forward with my elbows perpendicular to the ground. This’ll also help get the front wheel up easier later.

Make sure to grab on to each entire grip tightly with the full span of your hand. This will provide greater control over the bike, therefore giving you some confidence in performing the wheelie. Not doing so may result in you being startled and falling off the bike when the wheelie happens and possibly injuring yourself.

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This looks about right. Both hands in the meat of the grips.

Tip: You want a strong grip to maintain control of your dirt bike and keep from flying off the back of the bike when the front wheel launches skyward. A two-finger or single handed grip may impress the ladies but it makes the bike harder to control and chicks don’t dig body casts. 

Remember:

  • You want to maintain control of the bike during the stunt
  • Grip with two hands
  • Hold the meat of the grips
  • Hold firmly but not ‘grip of death’ tight

Step 3: Get Into a Gear With the Most Torque (Skip When Using a Clutchless Dirt Bike)

You need a lot of torque to get the bike’s weight, and your own, off the front tire. Remember, torque is pulling power, and we want to pull the front of the bike upwards. More torque makes the job of getting the wheel off the ground much easier because you are applying more power to the lift.

In most cases, first gear will have the most torque. I say most cases because electric dirt bikes often have a single gear. First is the largest gear in the transmission and is enmeshed with a small gear in the front sprocket, so when engaged, it delivers low speed, but high torque. As you advance in skill, you’ll need less torque to perform the maneuver and so will be able to pop wheelies in higher gears.

Remember:

  • The first gear always has the most torque
  • Disengage the clutch
  • Shift to 1st gear

Step 4: Put All Your Weight Into the Rear Wheel

There are two ways you can do this ⁠— standing up, or sitting down. Stand-up wheelies can require more arm/body movement to maintain balance. Basically, a stand up wheelie should be more stable than a sit down wheelie. It’s the same principle as balancing a broomstick on your hand… the more weight at the top, the easier it is. 

But, unless you’re riding a dirt bike with passenger pegs, standing may not be much help. What we want to do, remember, is shift our weight backwards… and passenger pegs are further back than typical dirt bike pegs. When placing your feet in the pegs, your wright is effectively in the middle of the bike, not further back. 

Sitting wheelies are way easier on single-seat bikes. This is because all you have to do is move your butt further back (getting into a sort of superman position). This will move most of the weight out to the rear wheel and make it easier to lift the front wheel.

Remember:

  • Butt out towards the rear
  • Arms stretched out toward the front but slightly bent
  • Keep feet on the pegs

Step 5: Disengage the Clutch

You need to disengage the clutch so that when you open the throttle, your engine can reach the right RPM without delivering power to the rear wheel. 

Disengaging the clutch means that no power goes to the rear wheel. This is when you pull back on the clutch lever. To transfer engine power to the rear wheel via the clutch, you need to “engage the clutch” by letting the clutch lever out.

The higher the RPM, the faster the rear wheel will spin when you re-engage the clutch. 

Remember:

  • Clutch in to keep power from the rear wheel
  • Clutch out to release the power into the rear wheel

Step 6: Quickly Open the Throttle Then Engage the Clutch

Power time! We want to catch the rear wheel with lots of power coming from the engine. This will create a sudden acceleration that will lift the front wheel up.

As you disengage the clutch, quickly open the throttle till the engine reaches a high RPM, and once it does, quickly re-engage the clutch. This’ll result in a “jump” which raises the front wheel up and propels the bike with only the rear wheel. Hence, the name “wheelie.”

You are basically getting the bike to take off like normal, but giving it more gas so more power is applied to the back wheel.

Open the throttle until you get good smooth vibrations on your tank and handlebars. This means the bike is in the right RPM able to throw the front upwards once you engage the clutch. Careful though, too much throttle and your dirt bike will go John Cena on you with a fallaway slam. Too little throttle and you’ll go straight forward.

Remember:

  • Open throttle to a high enough RPM (but not too high)
  • Straight out dump the clutch lever (or if you’re not too confident, slowly let it out then dump it)

Step 7: Balance With Brakes and Throttle

Now that you’re front-wheel-up, you need to maintain the wheelie. You can do this by balancing out your rear brake and throttle input. 

If the front wheel begins to drop, then increase the throttle output by slightly twisting the throttle backwards until the front wheel stops dropping. This will most likely make the front wheel rise up higher too.

If the bike begins to tip over backwards, then go easy on the throttle and gently step on the rear brake pedal. This will stop your rear wheel from moving too fast and allow the front wheel some time to drop.

The rider failed to tap the rear break to keep the bike from tipping over backwards. As a result, the back fender hits the ground, causing the rider to lose control and crash.
The rider failed to tap the rear break to keep the bike from tipping over backwards. As a result, the back fender hits the ground, causing the rider to lose control and crash.

Now you know how to wheelie a dirt bike!

Remember:

  • Open the throttle to raise the front wheel.
  • Step on the rear brake lever to lower the front wheel.
  • NEVER let your back fender touch the ground.

Which Electric Dirt Bike Would Make for the Best Wheelie Machine?

Sure gas-powered dirt bikes are the mostly used vehicle when performing wheelies off road. But nothing else performs better than a twist & go electric dirt bike with a powerful motor. There’s usually gobs of torque down low. These things can raise your front wheel up the moment you move that throttle half an inch. Here are some of the best electric dirt bikes for performing wheelies:

Cake Kalk& Electric Dirt Bike

When it comes to wheelies, the Cake Kalk& electric dirt bike would probably be a good bet. It’s super lightweight and small structure combined with its 10kW motor would definitely make performing wheelies effortless. It looks pretty cool too with its naked looks and visible internals. What’s cool is that it’s street legal so you can perform wheelies where the crowd is.

What’s not cool is that a brand-new Cake Kalk& will set you back a whopping $14,000 USD. So unless you’re a rich rider with deep pockets, I wouldn’t recommend using this bike to learn wheelies. Maybe use it when you’re a pro instead.

Electrified Stunt Riding – KALK (Source: YouTube)

Kuberg Freerider Street Electric Dirt Bike

If you want one of the best bikes to learn wheelies but you aren’t looking to drop $14k USD, this Kuberg electric dirt bike might be a better option. Brand new, you’ll only be set back about $5,499.99 USD which makes it money well-spent. This might be a much better option as you try getting the front wheel off the ground.

Or if you’re a high roller slinging mad stacks, stick with the Cake and impress everyone at the dirt track with your massive wallet.

It takes machismo to ride small bikes.

Kuberg Freerider Stunt Video (Source: YouTube)

Stealth’s H-52 Hybrid Electric Dirt Bike

Although this bike might not look similar to a real, authentic dirt bike, it has quite the perfect geometry and power delivery for performing flawless wheelies. The Stealth H-52 was specifically designed to create enduro-specific power. Not only is it solid and durable, but also lightweight and agile. The chrome-moly steel frame allows easy handling and precise cornering through its low weight as well as great stability.

Because there’s maximum energy absorption, performing those jumps and brapping those wheelies is never an issue.

The H-52 excels at being agile, precise, and torque-y. On top of that, the Stealth H-52 comes complete with carbon fiber panels that keep the weight to a minimum while providing an additional percentage of durability.

With a base price of $9,360.00 USD for a new model, you might do better off searching for a used one, especially if you are just using the bike to learn wheelies. No one wants to damage such an expensive dirt bike. Thankfully, you can find ideas on more affordable electric dirt bikes around Mud Bike.

Stealth H-52 doing wheelies (Source: YouTube)

Zero FXS Electric Dirt Bike

Just like the last chick you matched on Tinder, this countdown goes from small to large.

The Zero FXS electric dirt bike is the ideal bike for wheelies. First, the 34kW (46 hp) motor offers the torque you need to jerk up your front end. Even above 50 mph, you won’t have any trouble getting that front wheel up.

In addition, the Zero FXS is predictable and has a smooth throttle output. You’ll have good control whether your wheels are grounded or not. It’s also taller than the rest of the electric dirt bikes on this list. This allows you to transfer your weight better and helps you hoist the front wheel into the air.

Since it’s a street legal dirt bike, you can practice off road, where a fall wouldn’t be that dangerous. Then, head out to the pavement where all the watchers are at once you’ve perfected your tricks.

Zero Fxs supermoto Shortcuts And Wheelies (Source: YouTube)

FAQs on How to Wheelie a Dirt Bike

Q: I can’t lift the front wheel when trying to do a wheelie!

A: The problem is either lack of throttle output, a delay in engaging the clutch, or just your body position. 

Try to open the throttle enough to feel a rigorous vibration throughout the tank and handlebars. This means your engine is in the ideal RPM to pop a wheelie. If that doesn’t work, then try to engage the clutch faster than usual (usually just dump the clutch lever a second after the engine reaches the right RPM). If that still doesn’t work, try shifting your body weight more towards the rear and pull backwards on the handlebars as your bike accelerates.

Q: How to wheelie a dirt bike when the back tire just keeps spewing dirt?

A: Best to do a wheelie on solid terrain such as hard-packed dirt or pavement. This way, you prevent your rear wheel from digging into the ground and spewing dirt. It would also prevent sliding accidents and give you a smooth path throughout your wheelie. 

If you do insist on doing a wheelie on soft terrain, make sure to do it while moving. This will ensure your rear wheel doesn’t sit on just one contact patch and therefore won’t have enough time to dig into the dirt.

Q: I keep falling over sideways when trying to wheelie a dirt bike.

A: To keep it straight, you gotta be active on the bike, when you feel it start tipping to one side, adjust your weight, body position and how you’re pulling on the bars to counter the bike. It helps if you start out in a straight neutral position. Before you raise the front wheel up, pay attention to your body position and how you’re distributing your weight on the bike, you want to divide your weight equally favoring the rear a bit.

Q: The bike flipped over when trying to wheelie my dirt bike. What did I do wrong?

A: You probably had a little too much throttle output without stepping on the rear brake. As your bike accelerates into a wheelie, try to keep the throttle steady if you can. Otherwise, use the rear brake pedal to balance out the power in your rear wheel so it won’t roll too fast and throw you backwards. 

Q: I scraped the back fender when trying to wheelie a dirt bike. How do I keep that from happening?

A: Don’t raise the front wheel too high up. Control the rise and fall of your front wheel with the throttle and rear brake. If you do like doing over-the-top wheelies, temporarily remove the back fender and install a dirt bike wheelie bar. This is what most wheelie enthusiasts do to prevent damage to the bike as well as back fender-related accidents.

Image Gallery

If you want pro stunters to show you how to wheelie a dirt bike, here are a few wheelie snaps from different dirt bikes: